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Solitude (Flamingo) Paperback – 7 Apr 1988

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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; 2nd Impression edition (7 April 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006543499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006543497
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 39,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

In this brilliant and acclaimed book, the eminent psychiatrist Dr Anthony Storr challenges the widely held view that success in personal relationships is the only key to happiness. He argues persuasively that we pay far too little attention to some of the other great satisfactions of life – work and creativity. In a series of skilful biographical sketches, among them Beethoven, Henry James, Goya, Wittgenstein, Kipling and Beatrix Potter, he demonstrates how many of the creative geniuses of our civilisation have been solitary, by temperament of circumstance, and how the capacity to be alone is, even for those who are not creative, a sign of maturity.

'This book brings excellent news for those who, whatever their reasons for doing so, live alone… It is heartening to find a psychiatrist of Dr Storr's eminence diverging from the received wisdom'.
ANITA BROOKNER,' Spectator'

'This is a short book, but so rich in ideas, and presented with such a telling combination of gentleness and authority, that it is also exceptionally absorbing and thought-provoking'.
CLAIRE TOMALIN,' Observer'

'Storr is an incapable of writing an uninteresting paragraph'.
NORMAN STONE,' Sunday Times'

'This is an important, even revolutionary book. If it saves naturally non-sociable people from anxiety about ‘not belonging’ and enables them to come to terms with their solitude it will have done a notable human service'.
ERIC CHRISTIANSEN,' Independent'

About the Author

The editor, Anthony Storr, is a doctor, psychiatrist and analyst (trained in the school of C.G.) and author of ‘Jung’ (a Fontana Modern Master,1973) amongst many others.


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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 64 people found the following review helpful By cathy earnshaw on 21 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
Anthony Storr, the British psychiatrist and writer who died of a heart attack in 2001, published twelve books in his lifetime. 'Solitude' was groundbreaking upon its publication in 1989, his key argument being that solitary pursuits "play a greater part in the economy of human happiness than modern psycho-analysts and their followers allow". Traditionally, psychoanalysis has tended to view those who generally do not generally engage in or avoid close personal relationships as psychologically immature, as having a character deficit to be remedied. Today legions of self-help books and women's magazines bolster this tenet by extolling interpersonal relationships as life's holy grail (especially, but not exclusively, for women). Storr counters that interpersonal relationships are not the only way of finding emotional fulfilment and that solitude can be creative, fulfilling and foster emotional maturity. Drawing upon both voluntary and enforced states of solitude, he claims that it is crucial in "attaining peace of mind and maintaining mental health".

An especial need to be alone in adult life can be traced back (in many, if not all, cases) to "some degree of insecure attachment in early childhood". Solitude can then take on a compensatory and healing function: "a retreat from unhappiness, a compensation for loss, and a basis for later achievement". Indeed on the basis of the lives of famous writers (Trollope, James, Kafka), philosophers (Kant, Wittgenstein) and composers (Wagner, Beethoven, Bach), he argues that what began as compensation for deprivation can become a rewarding way of life. These artists and thinkers could "best express [their] true self in some form of creative work rather than in interaction with others".
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 26 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
If you are looking at and considering this book to help you make sense of the situations of solitude that you find yourself in, please read it. It has helped me to be objective about my childhood and the effect it has had on me, to see how childhood bereavement has affected later behaviour and to look at my current situation (one of partial solitude due to a painful condition) more creatively. Whereas I used to blame myself for previous behaviours/mistakes, Dr Storr's book has helped me to see that maybe some of it was inevitable. Dr Storr calls on a lifetime of learning in this book, but it is easy to read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By SecondCherry on 23 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who enjoys spending a lot of time alone might do well to read this book. Far too often, people like us are considered weirdos - the ones who don't dance at weddings and would rather enjoy a good book than go to a party. Storr, clearly keen on his own time himself, outlines the psychological value of spending time alone, showing that the busy life is scarcely conducive to real thought or intellectual achievement. I also have his book Music and the Mind, and really rather wish I'd met him - he comes across as a very interesting and compassionate individual.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was first published in 1988 when renowned psychiatrist Anthony Storr was already sixty-eight. Its contents reflect almost a lifetime's worth of insight into the human condition. It contains an introduction and twelve chapters, the contents of which I précis below to give an outline of Storr's arguments, but the potential reader of this marvellous book would do well to read it in full; not only to see how Storr's arguments progress and the sources he relies upon, but also because the literary style of its arguments is so well-expressed.

In the introduction Storr writes that, "Many of the world's greatest thinkers have not reared families or formed close personal ties." But many have. And, "It is difficult to point to examples of men and women of genius whose interpersonal relationships have been stormy, and whose personalities have been grossly disturbed by mental illness, alcoholism, or drug abuse." But they do exist. Storr implicitly acknowledges this. He partly blames Freud for the view "that heterosexual fulfilment is the sine qua non of mental health" and "the modern insistence that true happiness can only be found in intimate attachments."

Whilst conceding the importance of love and friendship in making life worthwhile, "they are not the only source of happiness." This is arguable, of course, but even Aristotle at the end of his `Ethics' concluded that the perfect life required leisure for contemplation as well as friendship.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Jun. 2003
Format: Paperback
As society increasingly places emphasis on the values of relationships, and often judges people on what seems to be their inability to have one, the importance of a book that encourages people to be at peace with their solitude cannot be underestimated. Storr draws from the experiences of people like Gibbon, Kafka, and Wittgenstein to show that there is nothing wrong with living your life alone, but he is at his most illuminating when outlining how normal people can, through experiences in their childhood, acquire the self-reliance necessary to be emotionally independent and self-sufficient. The chapter on how a young child learns to be "alone in the presence of the mother" will doubtless strike a chord with many readers, and probably help them understand some of their own experiences.
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